METHUEN — Five years of legal battles between the city and police Chief Joseph Solomon would end under a settlement proposed by Mayor Stephen Zanni.
The settlement aims to end the three legal disputes between the city and chief and pay Solomon an undetermined amount of money. Zanni yesterday would not disclose the proposal's potential cost to the city. Zanni said Solomon received the proposal Monday. The mayor said he hopes an agreement will be reached sometime next week.
"It's still in negotiations but I'm not looking to cost the city an awful lot," said Zanni. "I hope between now and next week we can come to a mutual understanding."
Solomon yesterday confirmed he has received the settlement proposal but declined to comment further. "It's under review at the current time," said Solomon.
Zanni also declined to discuss details of the proposal. But it's likely the city would agree not to appeal a March 12 decision in Lawrence Superior Court that awarded Solomon $49,000 in lost wages and ordered the city to restore his annual pay to the roughly $161,000 he made in 2007 — an increase of about $30,000 from his current level.
The court decision came after in a civil lawsuit filed by Solomon after city councilors voted in 2007 to slash his pay by more than $25,000 once his contract lapsed.
Former Mayor William Manzi fired Solomon in May 2008. Solomon returned as chief in October 2010, after the state's Civil Service Commission reduced his termination to a year's suspension. Under the civil service decision, Solomon was paid $199,000 when he returned to work. But he believed he was owed additional money and filed the civil suit.
Under a settlement, the city would also likely throw out its appeal of the Civil Service decision that cleared Solomon's return as chief, and Solomon would throw out his federal suit against the city that seeks to ensure he keeps his job.
Several city councilors have said in recent weeks they would likely support a settlement — including Jamie Atkinson, Michael Condon and Jeanne Pappalardo.
If Zanni and Solomon can't come to terms, Zanni said he will consider appealing the recent Lawrence Superior Court decision and proceeding with the other two cases in court.
The city has until mid-April to file an appeal.
After discussing the matter with City Solicitor Peter McQuillan, Zanni said the decision of whether to file an appeal is up to the mayor and not the City Council.
In a confidential memo to councilors dated March 16, McQuillan recommended the city appeal the judgement, which he wrote "contains serious legal inconsistencies."
But in the weeks after the decision, Zanni first said he would let the council decide whether to appeal. At least three councilors — Pappalardo, Sean Fountain and Tom Ciulla — have said they are against filing an appeal.
Yesterday, the mayor said he will discuss the matter with councilors before making the decision himself, if a settlement isn't reached next week.
"I will definitely be discussing this with the council prior to my decision," said Zanni.
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